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1 USF Florida Studies Center Oral History Program USF 50 th History Anniversary Project Narrator: Joybubbles (Joe Engressia) Interviewer: Andrew Huse Current Position: Former USF student Location of Interview: Telephone Date of Interview: August 23, 200 4 Abstractor: Jared G. Toney Editor: Mary E. Yeary Date of Abstract: October 12, 2004 Date of Edit: October 15, 2004 Final Editor: Jared G. Toney TOPICS OF DISCUSSION Moving to USF Joybubbles, then known as Joe Engressia (aka the "Whistler"), decided to move from Miami to Tampa in order to attend classes at USF in the fall of 1968. Initial impressions Initially, he remembers being impressed by the facilities on campus, though he was, "of course, deflated that there wasn't phones in the room, being that I'm a real phone artist." Academics Joybubbles was not "properly motivated" enough as a young student to really have a clear vision of what his goals were. Academically, he went from electrical engineering to mathematics to business administr ation, recalling that he "hadn't really thought it through at the time what I really wanted." Interest in telephones He first became interested in the telephone at the young age of three years, when, as he was playing, he declared to his mother that he was "a telephone man forever ... Last year I celebrated fifty years of that ... and I still am just fascinated with [it]." Engressia's blindness Mr. Engressia was born totally blind, as was his sister. Thus deprived of sight, he found an appeal in teleph one communications because of "the electronics, the sound, reaching out to people, the technical challenge ... I could learn it so good I could do things with it that people never knew it could be done." Because he could not write things down, he had to r ely upon his memory as he learned various tricks of telephony. While he was attending school in Tampa, he obtained a book on tape entitled, The Fundamentals of Telephony "I was playing that a lot while I was at USF instead of studying like I should."
2 Student protests While he was a student at USF, Engressia remembers that there was "a lot of passion" about the war in Vietnam, evident in frequent protests and demonstrations. Spending time at the Holiday Inn hotels He used to spend a lot of time going to local Holiday Inn hotel swimming pools where he particularly enjoyed playing with children and smelling the chlorine. "I loved Holiday Inns at that time ... Partly it was a place of peace for me ... kind of a different world that I really liked." On one occasion, Joybubbles even journeyed as far as Jacksonville to stay in a Holiday Inn hotel. "That [trip] was really when I first realized that I could actually move away from home and live by myself ... It was a real kind of a critical spiritual turning po int there on Friday, May 30 of 1969." Departure Engressia left USF in March 1971 without having graduated. "I didn't know really why I wanted [a degree] or what it would do for me ... I wasn't getting what I needed or what I wanted from the education syst em ... It was just something that was compulsory." Whistling He really did not participate in too many campus social activities, until, after a couple months at USF, he gained some notoriety as the "Whistler," a skill whereby he "whistled" long distance p hone calls illegally without being charged any fees. He became quite popular among students, providing twenty five to thirty students with free long distance calls. Before too long, a security agent from General Telephone came to see him. Though he does no t remember the specifics, some sort of disciplinary hearing was held on campus where he had to explain his behavior. As a result, he recalls being suspended for the rest of the academic term. Engressia's whistling became known as "phone freaking," and sp read among various people all over the country who took an interest in the phenomenon. Calls around the world On a number of occasions, Joybubbles completed phone calls to himself all the way around the world. Delta Gamma escorts For some time, the gir ls of Delta Gamma sorority at USF agreed to escort Engressia around campus from one building to another. However, after he started getting into legal troubles from his behavior, the girls discontinued their efforts. Forced to make the trips across campus o n his own, he remembers having to ask a lot of people along the way for directions. National publicity Engressia started to gain national notoriety as "the Whistler," appearing on shows like Larry King, and conducting radio interviews with stations as far away as Ireland. "It was
3 quite novel then ... It was pretty exciting ... After all these years, somebody was actually taking an interest in me and it was quite gratifying." Engressia believes his IQ was once measured around 172. Ham radio license After being encouraged by so many to do so, Engressia eventually went out and obtained his ham radio operator's license. "But still, it was nothing compared to the phone." Phone friends One of his "big obsessions" currently is setting up local numbers in Austr alia, so that he can become "phone friends" with people from areas on the other side of the world. He is also now able to access the internet and other features over the telephone. Name change As a survivor of child abuse, Engressia decided to change his name to Joybubbles in an attempt to recover the childhood that he felt he never really had. "In 1988 I decided to have a childhood at last." He first picked the name while spending some time at a spiritual retreat. The name quickly caught on among his fri ends, and in 1991 he went to court and had his name changed legally. Ordination He also at one time obtained a ministerial certificate in metaphysical ordination from the Community of Spiritual Seekers in Florida. "So I could legally marry people if I kn ew how which I don't." Closing remarks "I'm still glad I went to [the] University of South Florida ... Everything you learn goes together to make your life more rounded and interesting ... I think the university experience is valuable ... I like to give back what I can, share what I can." End of Interview
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q (Joe Engressia)
Joybubbles (Joe Engressia)
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Andrew Huse.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (43 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 expanded summary (digital, PDF file)
USF 50th (2006) anniversary oral history project
Joe Engressia, a USF student in the late 1960s who now goes by the name Joybubbles, discusses his popularity on campus during his time as a student. He was well-known for his "phone phreaking" skills with which he could make telephone calls for free. He was also known as "The Whistler."
Interview conducted August 23, 2004.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
University of South Florida.
Huse, Andrew T.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y CLICK HERE TO ACCESS DIGITAL AUDIO AND EXPANDED SUMMARY